Red Herring has published its list of the top ten technology trends to watch for 2005:
- Moore’s Law yields to innovation: The long history of processor speed doubling every 18 months without changing price looks to be coming to an end, not because it can’t be sustained, but because other innovations, like dual cores, can accomplish the same ends without having to deal with the growing problem of overheating that fast processors must contend with.
- VoIP makes distance irrelevant and increases the functionality of telephony: Although carrying sound over the Internet is most famous for killing phone companies that charge outrageous long-distance rates, and making all telephony flat-rate, it’s also increasing the traditional PBX phone system’s functionality, allowing people to dial others by clicking on their name instead of having to look up numbers, and providing ‘presence awareness’ (telling you before you ‘dial’ whether the person is available for your ‘call’).
- Explosion of authentication and automatic identification systems: Increased need for security and the cost of maintaining password lists is driving this change, but authentication and identification systems, if they can walk the line between convenience and breech of privacy, could also simplify and streamline the process by which we get permissioned for almost everything, allowing us to access both physical and intellectual property without jumping through hoops.
- Commercial gene therapy breakthroughs: RNA-interference therapies could soon be used to suppress messenger genes that cause diseases from AIDS to diabetes. But while the technical problems in making such therapies seem to be solved, the anti-innovation US patent laws remain a huge stumbling block, and patients may have to wait while greedy corporations sue each other to death or patent law reform enters the 21st century before the therapies can be brought to market.
- Micro fuel cells’ last change to prove themselves real: Small fuel cells that recharge or even power small portable electronic devices off-the-grid have been promised for years, but technical and performance problems have delayed their coming to market. Next year may see the first few commercial releases, though they will be unfriendly to the environment (another ‘disposable’, and in need of constant refilling), and initially very expensive (as much as a dollar per hour’s worth of fuel).
- Desktop search and desktop management heats up: Software vendors are finally realizing that the up-to-30% of people’s work-time spent ‘looking for information’ is often spent looking on users’ own hard drives, not on the Internet and Intranets. Google Desktop arrived with a splash this year, and many more desktop search tools are coming. But will vendors realize that search is just the tip of the Personal Content Management iceberg?
- Medical equipment comes ‘of age’: Baby boomers are fueling the demand for new medical equipment that offers therapy for patients without the use of drugs (expensive, invasive, prone to side-effects, and slow-to-market) or hands-on treatment (even more expensive, and temporary). But while self-administered treatment is exploding, baby boomers are even more enthused with self-diagnosis, doing their own on-line research and using new diagnostic kits to avoid the doctor’s office entirely.
- Web services allow small companies to grow up fast: New web service companies are providing, in small, affordable packages, the capabilities that big corporations developed in-house or bought from hugely expensive systems integrators and ERP vendors.
- Asia and Europe extend their wireless lead over North America: Where 3G technologies dominate in Asian and European markets, North Americans still use their phones for voice calls and go online using cables or phone lines. Only 28% of Americans own laptops or cell phones with wireless data capability, and only a little over half of them have used that capability. The digital divide grows, on many fronts.
- PC/TV convergence and the battle for the living-room: The much-ballyhooed convergence of the PC and the TV, and promised ubiquity of ‘smart’ digital appliances everywhere hasn’t really happened. Why? Because for most of us, it doesn’t meet a need. Too many tech vendors are overly infatuated with their own technologies, and have no appreciation of the average consumer whose main consumer electronics purchases remain the traditional ‘dumb’ TV and telephone. ‘Smart’ devices will only succeed when the companies that make them smarten up and understand the mainstream customer and his/her needs and low tolerance for complexity.
I confess this list didn’t exactly blow me away with the ingenuity of technology. What’s missing from the list? I’m working on my own lists of Most Important Ideas of 2004 (in each of three areas: Blogs & Blogging, Business, and Politics & Economics), and I can use some help — this year hasn’t exactly been the promised banner year for innovation.
The innovation process at the top of this post is from Credit Suisse First Boston and is explained in more detail in my innovation paper.